An elderly zoo chimp tells the story of his oppressive early life as an animal performer.
It’s the 50th birthday of Old Poe, a chimp at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, and zookeeper Todd has decorated the outside of Poe's habitat with banners while visitors wish him happy birthday. Poe’s granddaughter, Lulu, asks Poe to tell her about when he was little, and he tells the compelling story of what it was like to be forced into a world where “chimps were not chimps”—where he was caged, frightened and mistreated as an animal entertainer. The artwork is effective, with scenes of Poe being mistreated in the past illustrated in muted, dark colors, while the present zoo-habitat scenes are drawn in glossy, inviting colors. The rhyming text mostly scans, though it never rises above amateurish. The story effectively demonstrates that zoos are qualified to provide chimps with the “appropriate care, housing and rich social life they require to truly be chimps,” but there is no mention of how zoo life compares with the quality of life of chimps in the wild. The app includes a helpful navigation menu and ten “Chimp Facts” to go along with the story. A narration option would be helpful, particularly since the rich language is probably not accessible for early readers.
A moving story with graphic appeal makes an effective case for animal rights. (iPad storybook app. 3-7)